KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday urged the business community in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province to work out a feasibility plan to use a $1 billion Saudi investment ‘gift’ to Pakistan, which he said could be utilized to install a desalination plant in a city for decades plagued by water shortages.
Karachi needs about 1,200 million gallons per day of water to meet the demand of its estimated population of 20 million people. But officials say its two main water sources only provide the city with about 580 million gallons per day. Some of the water is lost due to dilapidated infrastructure and water theft, while experts say climate change and dams built upstream by India also reduce water supplies.
In an interview with Arab News during a visit to Saudi Arabia late last month, Sharif said the two countries were now working on exploring new and non-conventional areas of bilateral cooperation, with a particular focus on promoting economic, trade and investment ties.
“One billion dollars is ready and it is a gift of investment from Saudi Arabia,” the PM said in an interaction with businesspersons during a one-day visit to the capital of Sindh. “As the prime minister, I am laying this in front of you. Sit together and brainstorm and make a feasibility plan.”
“Set up a desalination plant and I believe that clean water will be available at every home within five years,” the PM said. “The investment is ready. It’s now up to you how to use it.”
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Businessmen Group present at the meeting, said the prime minister discussed different issues with the business community, including the installation of a desalination plant.
“Saudi Arabia will invest $1 billion, especially in a desalination plant this year,” he quoted PM Sharif as telling business persons, saying the Saudis had shown interest in investing in desalination plants because of the kingdom’s expertise in the sector.
Sharif also discussed a ban imposed by his government this week on the import of luxury and non-essential items, saying the decision would not only save $4 billion annually but also help boost the local industry.
“The objective of this ban for a specific time is to save foreign exchange and bring stability,” he said. “If we save $4 billion, this can meet our whole edible oil needs… This is like earning $4 billion.”
Referring to his meeting with a Chinese delegation on Thursday, PM Sharif told the group the Chinese had expressed interest in the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project.
Launched in 1964, the KCR inner-city train service declined in mid-80s and was discontinued in 1999. In November 2020, the former government of prime minister Imran Khan made a section of the inner-city train service functional on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The prime minister’s meeting with the business group took place during a daylong trip to Karachi, where he launched the Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Badr, the third ship under the framework of Turkey’s MILGEM project.
The newly launched corvette is equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, including surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine weapons, which will significantly boost the Pakistan Navy’s defensive and offensive capabilities.